Details of evidence turned over to Lori Vallow's defense attorney were not immediately revealed

By Jeff Truesdell
March 18, 2020 04:24 PM
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Lori Vallow
Lori Vallow
| Credit: Madison County Sheriff's Office

As prosecutors turned over their first evidence in the case against Lori Vallow, her attorney is asserting the jailed Idaho mom’s innocence in the disappearance of her two children, who were last seen in September.

Disclosures in the evidence were not immediately revealed. The material — including police interviews, security video footage from a storage unit where items belonging to the missing children were found and security footage from the Idaho Falls airport and Yellowstone National Park, where the eldest of the two children was last seen — was delivered Monday by prosecutors to Vallow’s defense attorney, as part of a process known as “discovery,” according to online court records.

Authorities were alerted by a grandparent in late November to the disappearance of her children, 7-year-old Joshua “J.J.” Vallow and 17-year-old Tylee Ryan, and filed criminal charges last month against Vallow after she left Idaho and turned up in Hawaii, where she defied a court order to produce the children to police or child welfare officials.

She stands accused in Idaho of two felony counts of desertion and nonsupport of dependent children, as well as resisting or obstructing officers, criminal solicitation to commit a crime, contempt of court and willful disobedience of court process or order. Each count carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison if convicted, according to the Madison County prosecutor’s office.

Police earlier said they “strongly believe that Joshua and Tylee’s lives are in danger” after reporting that Vallow and her newlywed husband, Chad Daybell, an author who writes about religious doomsday prophecies, “abruptly vacated” the couple’s Rexburg home and fled to Hawaii before police could serve search warrants tied to the investigation.

Tylee Ryan and Joshua Vallow
Joshua “J.J.” Vallow, at left, and Tylee Ryan

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Vallow has not yet entered a formal plea to the charges after she was extradited from Hawaii to face them. She remains jailed in Madison County on a $1 million bond.

But in a statement to ABC News, her defense attorney, Mark Means, maintained her innocence.

“As with any citizen of our country, Mrs. Daybell is entitled to all the privileges and rights that accompany our cornerstone belief of innocents [sic], until proven beyond a reasonable doubt otherwise,” said the statement, issued Monday. “It is this innocence that Mrs. Daybell assertively maintains regarding all charges.”

The statement continued: “Furthermore, Mrs. Daybell is guaranteed access to a fair and impartial judicial process. There is no room in the process for conjecture, innuendos, and or speculation to alter this Constitutionally guaranteed process.”

Means has not responded to repeated requests from PEOPLE for comment.

Lori Vallow, Chad Daybell
Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell
| Credit: Rexburg Police Department (2)

In a court hearing Friday, two of Vallow’s other attorneys withdrew from defending her. No reason was given for their request, which paralleled a request by Means that the assigned judge in the case, Farren Eddins, remove himself. Eddins agreed, according to a videotape of the court proceedings obtained by EastIdahoNews.com.

Neither Vallow nor her attorneys were present for the Friday hearing that was conducted over the telephone in Madison County. Her next hearing date is May 7.

Police in Rexburg say they have documented several misleading statements about the children from the couple, and discovered them living in Kaua’i, Hawaii, on Jan. 25, without the two children after concern about the kids’ whereabouts was raised in late November by J.J.’s grandparents.

J.J. is an adopted child who has autism.

Lori Vallow and her husband Chad Daybell in Hawaii
Chad Daybell and Lori Vallow
| Credit: Eric Grossarth/ EastIdahoNews.com

Authorities say J.J. was last seen at his Rexburg school on Sept. 23 before his mother withdrew him from classes. Tylee was last seen Sept. 8 when she accompanied her mother, brother and an uncle, Alex Cox, on a day trip to Yellowstone.

The investigation into the missing children has since yielded a second look at the October death of Daybell’s former wife, Tammy, which officials later termed “suspicious,” and which occurred two weeks before he and Vallow married. It also focused renewed attention on the July shooting death in Vallow’s home of her former husband, Charles Vallow, by her brother, Alex Cox, during an alleged altercation.

Cox, who claimed self-defense and was not charged in the shooting, died in December under circumstances that authorities also are reviewing.

YouTube screen grab showing Alex Cox who killed Lori Vallow's ex husband Charles Vallow.
Alex Cox

Charles’ death in Arizona preceded Vallow’s move with her kids to Rexburg, near the home base for the company that publishes Daybell’s religious writings. She and Daybell had appeared together as early as December 2018 on a podcast promoted by a small media company under the banner “Preparing a People,” designed to help its audience plan for the end of the world.

Before his death, Charles had cited concern about what he portrayed as his wife’s growing embrace of extreme religious views in divorce paperwork.

“[Vallow] has recently become infatuated at times obsessive about near death experiences and spiritual visions,” Charles alleged in a January 2019 filing. “Mother has told Father [Charles] that she is sealed [eternally married] to the ancient Book of Mormon prophet Moroni and that she has lived numerous lives on numerous planets prior to this current life.”

Before Rexburg police located Vallow and Daybell in Kaua’i, they said in a statement that Lori “has refused to work with law enforcement” to aid the search for her kids, and added: “We know that the children are not with Lori and Chad Daybell and we also have information indicating that Lori knows either the location of the children or what has happened to them.”

Daybell has not been named in any criminal allegations related to the children’s disappearance.